The third stop on our cruise was the beautiful, lush island of Dominica (pronounced Dom-uh-nee-ka, and not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). It is an independent nation, gaining independence in 1978, but it has a rich history. It was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. He gave it its name—“Sunday” (dominca in Latin)—yes, that crazy guy was so creative he named it after the day he discovered it. The Carib name for the island is Wai’tu kubuli, which means “tall is her body”. I’m going to start making Eric refer to me as Wai’tu kubuli…
Aside from the local Carib Indians (which still remain today and Dominica is the only Caribbean island to have native inhabitants), it remained unpopulated until France claimed it some years later. It was abandoned by the missionaries though, as the Carib Indians attacked the settlers. It was a bloody war, with many natives dying and one river being nicknamed the “massacre” river because the water was red with blood for days. England then became the owner after the Treaty of Paris following the 7 Year’s War, although the French did try to invade twice to regain control. After the British abolition of slavery, Dominica became the first British nation to have an elected governmental body with a majority of Africans. Though there was some uprising and outrage, this eventually paved the way for Dominica to become an independent nation, holding much of its Carib, French, and English heritage. In the 1980’s Dominica saw many economic troubles and even an attempt at overthrowing the government by American and Canadian mercenaries. Their ultimate plan was to make this a hot-spot for criminal activity, but the FBI was tipped off and stopped the whole thing. There’s a book about the whole thing…
The official languages are English, French and Antillean Creole (a local dialect). Most of the folks are Roman Catholic, but the first mosque was built just a few years ago. They drive on the left side of the road…wait, I said road? Let me clarify—by “road” I mean muddy, rocky paths at high elevations. Dominica has no highway system, and little in terms of roadways. As the island is still being formed by volcanic activity, hurricanes are frequent, and landslides are common, roadways are difficult to maintain.
Check out this devastation from Hurricane David in 1979. Yes, that is a school bus, and YES, the tree is still alive and growing on its side.
On our excursion, we saw many men on the side of the mountains with nothing but shovels and bags of gravel trying to build roadways.
Of course, this sight did nothing to calm the fears of the woman in the van with us…who continued to yell at the driver because she was terrified of his driving. I’ll give the guy credit, the roads were only wide enough for one car, but he still found a way to pass. The tour guide actually started making everyone sing songs to try to calm her down. However, there was a little old lady (in her 70’s) who was awesome. She told the lady to “shut up because if it’s your time, it’s your time.” She also was the first to lead the way through the entire excursion. Kudos to her!
Our excursion here was FANTABULOUS. Amazing. Truly, one of those experiences that I’m glad I’ve had. First we visited Titou Gorge. This was one of the filming sites for Pirates of the Caribbean 2.
The scenes from the movie where Johnny Depp was being hailed as the God by the locals, and then later roasted and chased, were filmed here, and included local Carib peoples. Our tour driver was one of the equipment drivers for the filming. Other scenes were filmed here as well, including inside Titou Gorge.
That’s right—inside. After taking a short walk through the rainforest (aka across a rickety, old bridge),
we waded into the cool (okay, cold!) freshwater.
We then swam between the gorge, in depths up to 40 ft. of water. After swimming for 10 minutes or so, we came to a waterfall with a rocky ledge. We climbed up the waterfall and plunged back into the water. Truly, the cold water was invigorating, and the experience was surreal.
Then, we made our way to the Screw Lodge. Um…yep. I’m not sure why it’s named that, but I like to refer to it as the Sulfur Springs. Heavenly. Seriously, I think I found the fountain of youth. We dipped into the springs, which was HOT. But, as I’m always cold, I thought it was perfect. Many folks with a hot tub at home commented that this was much, much hotter than they keep their hot tubs. While the water was cloudy, there wasn’t a hint of sulfur smell to be, well, smelled. I wore an old bathing suit because I didn’t want to risk ruin, but it was unnecessary as there was zero smell.
After chillin’, er burnin’, here for 30 minutes or so, we went to the lodge to enjoy fresh fruit and punch. And when I say fresh, I mean the tour guide walked into the forest and pulled some fruit from the tree. It was delicious, and we had the chance to try a few different things—like white oranges.
I couldn’t get over how good my skin looked and felt. Even Eric was running around talking about how much energy he had and how fantastic he felt. When we got back to dinner later that evening, we got comments about how glowing and healthy we looked. I’m assuming this is why Dominica has more centenarians per capita than any other place in the world. It’s not uncommon for folks to live to at least 90 years old, with little to no health problems.
Dominica relies heavily on tourism, but also wants to maintain the native heritage and land. They try to push eco-tourism, such as waterfall hikes and whale-watching instead of shopping and beach sports. However, due to the rainy season from June-October, and times when relative humidity can reach 90%, many cruise ships choose not to make this a main port. In fact, Dominica is the least visited Caribbean island. It was humbling to see the disparity between Aruba and Curacao (two of the highest standards of living), and Dominica (in economic hardship). I think the excursions here were more worthwhile, however, so I hope the new docks built in Dominica recently bring more tourism for the nation.
And just for fun, we had to do the typical self-portrait shot…especially considering all of our other shots were with a water camera. We will be buying the water case shortly.